This is a continuation of Pastor Dennis Rokser’s powerful exposé on the Grace Evangelical Society’s reductionist assault on the Gospel, i.e. the content of saving faith. You may begin the series with Part 1 and link from there to parts two and three.
Once again I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who washed us from our sins in His own blood.
This is my fourth installment (originally published June 5, 2008) in a series of articles that is addressing the issue of incongruity. As previously stated, the issue boils down to this:
“Does the Bible allow for an incongruity or difference between the CONTENT OF THE GOSPEL message which is to be faithfully PREACHED and the content of SAVING FAITH post-Calvary which must be BELIEVED in order to have eternal life today?”As we seek to hammer shut the coffin of incongruity and burn this straw man, I previously set forth two scriptural nails worthy of consideration:
Nail # 1: 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain.It is interesting to note that Paul not only “PREACHED” (aorist, indicative) THE GOSPEL, but also this message of salvation was “RECEIVED” by them. The word “received” (paralambano) is an aorist (completed action at a point of time in their past) active (they chose to receive the Gospel) indicative (the mood of fact) verb that highlights the reality of the Corinthians positive response and reception of the Gospel which had been preached to them.
But how had these believers “received” the Gospel? The end of verse 2 tells us, “unless you believed in vain.” The verb “believed”(pisteuo – to believe, trust) corresponds EXACTLY in its tense (aorist), voice (active) and mood (indicative) as “received.” These individuals had made a decisive decision in the past to choose to receive/believe the Gospel that was preached by Paul.
Note that THERE IS NO INCONGRUITY BETWEEN THE GOSPEL that was PREACHED by Paul and THE GOSPEL which was BELIEVED by the Corinthians! There was no MAXIMUM preached and MINIMUM believed!
Nail #2: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.Towards the conclusion of my article I wrote,
“Now all of this exegesis and exposition prepares us to raise the all important question: WAS THERE ANY INCONGRUITY OR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GOSPEL WHICH WAS PREACHED EVANGELISTICALLY AND WHAT THESE CORINTHIANS HAD BELIEVED FOR THEIR ETERNAL SALVATION?”The answer: NO! NEVER! Listen to it again:
Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach (What? “the Gospel”- vs.1), and so you believed (what? “the Gospel” - vs.1). NO INCONGRUITY!
Nail #3: 1 Corinthians 1:17-25
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.This passage raises several pertinent questions that directly intersect with the false teaching of the crossless gospel and the issue of incongruity.
• What was Paul sent by Jesus Christ to preach?
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…(1:17a)It is important to note that Paul has a definitive message in mind that does not involve the whole Bible or even the whole New Testament. But he was sent to preach a specific message of good news from God to man.
• What was the centerpiece of the Gospel Paul preached?
...not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. (1:17b)The Gospel that Paul preached focused upon the cross of Jesus Christ. In keeping with my last two articles, the New Testament is abundantly clear that the substutionary and finished work of Christ regarding our sin penalty owed to God is an essential element of the Gospel that needs to be faithfully preached to the lost for their justification and to the saved for their progressive sanctification. No wonder Paul goes on to add…
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1:18)There should be no debate that the cross-work of Christ must be an essential part of our preaching of the Gospel. Amen? But this is not where the real issue of incongruity lands. For there are those who would espouse that we should preach the death and resurrection of Christ when we PREACH the Gospel but that is not to say that a sinner must BELIEVE those truths in order to be eternally saved, justified, or receive eternal life. In fact, as previously stated in my first article, there are those who openly DENY that a sinner must believe in Christ’s death and resurrection to be justified before God. But what saith the Scriptures?
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1:21)• What is the “the message preached” that Paul is referring to?
It’s the MESSAGE OF THE CROSS!
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1:17-18)• Who is it that God saves and under what condition?
It is “those” of “the world” that “BELIEVE...” “the message” “PREACHED,” which is centered around the CROSS of CHRIST!
And the following two verses support the conclusion that the “save” of verse 21 is referring in this verse to eternal salvation for the lost , not salvation/sanctification for the saved. Thus, there was no MAXIMUM preached but MINIMUM believed. Neither was there any post-modern uncertainty as to what God clearly requires for the lost to be saved eternally.
• Was there any hint of incongruity or disparity between the Gospel which was PREACHED and what God required the lost to BELIEVE?
NONE!!! This so-called issue of incongruity is an artificial dichotomy, a straw man, a non-issue in the Scriptures. Furthermore, this verse makes it clear that “the Gospel” Paul preached and the saving content of faith are one in the same!
• How did the Jews and the Gentiles (as a norm) react to the message of the cross?
For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach
Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks
Again the Scripture makes it crystal clear that Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to “preach Christ crucified” to the lost. Again we are faced with the scriptural facts that the preaching of the Gospel entails both the person (“Christ”) and work (“crucified”) of the only Savior God ever provided.
Also it is important to observe that the natural man’s (1 Cor. 2:14) response or reaction to the preaching of the Gospel is one of utter rejection. In fact, for the Jewish mind to embrace a crucified Messiah was scandalous (“a stumbling block”). And for the Gentile to believe that the Son of God was crucified was moronic (“foolishness”). If you would like to hear a great exposition regarding this passage and these truths, I recommend you listen to the message that Dr. Renald Shower’s preached at the 2007 Fall Bible Conference at the Duluth Bible Church (this can be found under “resources.” If believing in the message of the cross was NOT necessary for a sinner’s justification before God and the receiving of eternal life but is only imperative for progressive sanctification in the life of a believer (as the crossless advocates propose), and if the message of the cross is a stumbling block and foolishness to the lost, WHY NOT ELIMINATE ITS PREACHING UNTIL SOMEONE HAS BELIEVED THE SUPPOSED MINIMUM – “believe in Jesus for eternal life”? Would it not be logical to ask, “Paul, why not eliminate the unnecessary stumbling block of the cross and supposedly get more people saved?” Then after they have “believed in Jesus as the guarantor of eternal life” you can teach them this additional truth for their sanctification? YET PAUL INSISTED ON PREACHING THE CROSS TO THE UNSAVED AND WAS CONVINCED THAT GOD WOULD “SAVE THEM THAT BELIEVE” the message of the cross of Christ!
In addition, if Paul did decide to preach the Gospel anyhow (knowing it was viewed as a stumbling block and foolishness) would he not have been wise to qualify that the message of the cross he PREACHED was not essential to be BELIEVED? BUT PAUL DID NOT QUALIFY IT AT ALL!
Dear readers, again God has spoken and He has not stuttered: NO INCONGRUITY!
Can you hear the hammer hitting the nail of 1 Corinthians 1:17-25 as it sounds out loud and clear … NO INCONGRUITY!
Pastor Dennis Rokser
Please proceed to Part 5, the final installment of this series.